Obesity and its Effect on Children

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Today, I read a statement on a weight loss social media site that I found to be quite profound.

“Today is the first day in thirty five years that I did not feel like I needed to lose weight”.

The young lady who made this statement has felt ashamed of her weight since she was five years old. Thankfully now, she has finally achieved a healthy body fat percentage and weight. Whether some people will acknowledge feeling ashamed about their weight or not, the reality is, most do feel ashamed to some extent or another. But, the larger point I want to drive home is the fact this woman has felt shame since she was a young child, and she is far from being alone in feeling this way as a child. No child should ever feel ashamed of how they look or feel for any reason. Our children are our most precious and important resource and causing them stress
in early life can affect their dietary, physical activity, and other health behaviors, which increases
their risk of becoming overweight or obese. It is our duty as parents to nurture their every need during the formative years in order for them to grow up to become mentally and physically healthy adults. Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It’s particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. We owe our children better than this. We allow our children to become obese when we allow too little physical activity and feed them far too many calories from food and drinks which are the main contributors to childhood obesity.

Risk factors we allow for our children!

  • Diet. Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, baked goods and vending machine snacks, can cause your child to gain weight. Candy and desserts also can cause weight gain, and more and more evidence points to sugary drinks, including fruit juices and sports drinks, as culprits in obesity in some people.
  • Lack of exercise. Children who don’t exercise much are more likely to gain weight because they don’t burn as many calories. Too much time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games, also contributes to the problem. TV shows also often feature ads for unhealthy foods.
  • Family factors. If your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on weight. This is especially true in an environment where high-calorie foods are always available and physical activity isn’t encouraged.
  • Psychological factors. Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child’s risk of obesity. Some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom. Their parents might have similar tendencies. (1)

These risk factors above are all factors we as parents have, or should have control over.

Physical complications of childhood obesity include:

  • Type 2 diabetes. This chronic condition affects the way your child’s body uses sugar (glucose). Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • High cholesterol and high blood pressure. A poor diet can cause your child to develop one or both of these conditions. These factors can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, which can cause arteries to narrow and harden, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke later in life.
  • Joint pain. Extra weight causes extra stress on hips and knees. Childhood obesity can cause pain and sometimes injuries in the hips, knees and back.
  • Breathing problems. Asthma is more common in children who are overweight. These children are also more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder in which a child’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disorder, which usually causes no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver. NAFLD can lead to scarring and liver damage. (1)

Be a positive example and role model for the children in your life to follow.

Parents, guardians, and teachers can help children maintain a healthy weight by helping them develop healthy eating habits and limiting calorie-rich temptations. You also want to help children be physically active, have reduced screen time, and get adequate sleep.

“YOU” can help children develop healthy eating habits!

Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.

Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.

Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.

Encourage your family to drink lots of water.

“YOU” can limit calorie rich temptations!

You can do this by reducing the availability of high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks which can help your children develop healthy eating habits. Only allow your children to eat these foods rarely, so that they truly will be treats!

By encouraging your children to be active with regular physical activity they will develop many health benefits, including:

Strengthening bones.

Decreasing blood pressure.

Reducing stress and anxiety.

Increasing self-esteem.

Helping with weight management.

Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Children ages 3 through 5 years should be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should be physically active at least 60 minutes each day. If your quiet time is more important to you than your child being active, you have failed them.

Children ages 3 through 5 years should be active throughout the day.

Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should be physically active at least 60 minutes each day.

If we are being honest, sitting your child down in front of the television or video with sugary foods and drink is one of the worst things we have ever began doing as a society. Ask yourself who benefits most by sitting your child down like this, is it you or the child who benefits? If you have ever paid attention to kids on a playground, you have to know that most are naturally physically active and love to move around. This is what children are supposed to do!

No child should ever feel ashamed about how they look. No one should ever wake up one day and no longer feel as if they no longer need to lose weight after thirty five years. As a society, we can and must do better and what is right for our children’s needs if we want them to grow into healthy adults who can raise their own healthy children.

(1)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20354827

6 thoughts on “Obesity and its Effect on Children

  1. Well done David, WELL DONE! I am going to share this with friends & family. All you have to do is look around at the mini-vans driving through fast food places & donut shops with children starting their day off with a donut or a cheeseburger. Talk about a pandemic! Thank you once again David for sharing this important message.

  2. This is getting worse during the pandemic. I know parents who resent their kids having to be homeschooled and do exactly this, they set them in front of the TV with enough junk to keep them still. Odds are we’re headed for a resurgence of a problem that seemed to be getting a little better at one time. Great article, David.

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